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Groundhopping is the practice of visiting as many football grounds as possible. This, however is an oversimplified explanation. The majority of people who do this activity are known as groundhoppers and have either already been to the majority of decent grounds or have some perverse dislike of good quality football and stadiums. A consequence of this is that groundhoppers are more often than not found at non-league football grounds - the more obscure and difficult to get to the better.
The Ability to Boast
Groundhoppers are very fond of enquiring about the activities of fellow hoppers - commonly trying to out-do each other with tales of where they've been. 'Have you been to Bloxwich Rangers yet?' 'I've done all that league now including Dudley Amateurs' new ground'. Most hoppers actually compete with their fellow travellers and take pleasure only in having visited more grounds or more obscure grounds than each other. They sometimes travel in packs - sharing a car - but this is frowned upon by 'real' hoppers who only ever use public transport.
Groundhoppers are easily identified by the equipment that they carry...
The Carrier Bag
Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment the groundhopper possesses is the carrier bag. This is usually a high grade bag with some 'posing' value such as a cross-channel ferry company or a bus company's name on it. The carrier bag is taken everywhere and the same one is used until it literally falls apart. It is an ideal receptacle for carrying other essential items...
Seldom is a groundhopper spotted without a myriad of public transport timetables, most of which are completely useless in the area which he finds himself. Even stranger than this is the chronic inability of most of them to actually read a timetable which results in them grouping together en route in an attempt to arrive in the correct place on time. Similarly, they all carry an A to Z atlas and none of them can read those either. Many a local person has been confronted by a dishevelled figure with a carrier bag on a Saturday afternoon asking how they can get to the football ground on the other side of town in two minutes flat.
An essential item is the notebook. These appear in a variety of styles and sizes depending on the individual 'hopper's' needs. Some only need to jot down where they've been, while others note the player's names, others write match reports and some have been known to draw scale diagrams of the ground they are visiting. The notebook results in a number of traditions the most significant being the need to enquire of other hoppers 'got the teams yet' and the subsequent comparison of notes and any other important information that can be passed on1.
One other piece of information required to grasp a basic understanding of groundhopping is the essential attire. Let us start with the feet which are always covered with a pair of old nylon socks and white trainers2. Trousers are seldom jeans and often what can only be referred to as 'slacks', although this is a vague description because these articles have never been seen on sale anywhere. A football shirt is also required and must be one from the hopper's local non-league team or an obscure foreign team that nobody has ever heard of. An anorak is then worn - in all weather and finally one mustn't forget the personal radio3 with which the hopper listens to the football results on Radio 5 which he claims not to care about.
Finally, groundhopping is great fun if you can avoid these people. You get to go all over the country visiting different pubs, watch a game of football for a tenth of the price it would cost elsewhere and, have a good laugh at the hoppers.
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